- What Is A Tooth Abscess?
- Tooth Abscess Causes
- Tooth Abscess Symptoms
- Tooth Abscess Treatment
- Tooth Abscess Complications
- Tooth Abscess Home Remedies
What Is A Tooth Abscess?
Although tooth abscesses are fairly common dental conditions, they are can be very painful and disruptive to anyone who suffers from one. A tooth abscess is an infection of the tooth socket, or an infection of the root area below the tooth. Bacteria becomes trapped under the tooth, creating a pocket of infection inside the tooth, the tooth socket, the root area, or any combination of these areas. An ‘abscess’ is a pocket of infection created by bacteria, and a tooth abscess is visible on x-ray by dental professionals as an abnormal, darkened area under or around the tooth. This pocket puts pressure on the blood vessels and nerves around the tooth, causing moderate to severe pain.
Tooth Abscess Causes
As mentioned above, tooth abscesses are fairly common and can be caused by multiple issues. The most common cause of tooth abscesses is the natural tooth decay caused by aging. As we get older, the enamel on our teeth weakens, causing microscopic holes and cracks in the surface of the teeth. These cracks and holes can leave portals of entry for bacteria to invade the tooth structure and create a tooth abscess. Inadequate dental hygiene can increase the likelihood of a tooth abscess, so it is very important to properly floss and brush the teeth, especially as we get older.
Other causes of tooth abscesses include cavities and dental work performed on teeth. Cavities are areas of decay in the enamel of the tooth, which leaves the tooth susceptible to any bacteria that may get inside and create a tooth abscess. Dental work may also expose the inside of the tooth or the tooth roots to bacteria and cause an infection. Most tooth abscesses created by dental work occur soon after the work is done, however in people with weakened immune systems or other dental conditions, the abscess may form slowly and not be noticeable until weeks or months after the dental procedure was performed.
Tooth Abscess Symptoms
The most common symptoms of tooth abscesses are a moderate to severe toothache and swelling of the gum and mouth immediately surrounding the tooth, if the tooth is still “living” and the root is healthy. The toothache is usually severe and makes the person very uncomfortable. A list of the the most common symptoms of a tooth abscess follows below:
- Moderate to severe toothache of affected tooth and/or surrounding teeth
- Swelling of the gum and mouth surrounding the abscessed tooth
- Inability to chew or swallow, related to pain and discomfort
- Fever, body aches, generalized feeling of being ill
- Bad breath, related to abscess leaking or rupturing into mouth
- Tooth pain worsened by hot or cold liquids or air (even breathing)
If the tooth is “dead”, which means the nerve tissue has died or been removed by a root canal, a tooth abscess will have a different set of symptoms because there is no nerve tissue to relay a pain signal to the brain. The first symptom for a tooth abscess in a dead tooth is generally a feeling of looseness (even if the tooth does not move), followed by feeling swollen related to the infection pocket below the tooth. The person will only begin to feel pain with an abscess of a dead tooth after the abscess begins to spread to surrounding areas and puts pressure on tooth nerves that are still active. Advanced abscesses of dead teeth can lead to jaw bone infection, decay, and disfigurement, and treatment should be sought from a dental professional.
Tooth Abscess Treatment
The primary treatment for tooth abscesses are oral antibiotics, prescribed by a dental professional. The antibiotics kill the bacteria that are causing the tooth abscess. If there is a compromise in the enamel of the tooth, such as a cavity or decay, the dentist will also seal the surface of the tooth with a filling or crown to prevent reinfection of the tooth. It may also be necessary for a root canal to be performed to clean out the infection from the abscess and prevent any further tooth abscesses from occurring. In more severe cases when the tooth is damaged beyond repair, the dentist may decide to extract the tooth completely. The tooth abscess can then be removed and treated and the socket allowed to heal.
Tooth Abscess Complications
The complications of tooth abscesses are related to allowing the abscess to remain untreated. There is a high risk of the tooth abscess spreading to other teeth and areas of the gum, and even into the jaw bone. Some of the most complications are as follows:
- Rupture of abscess (leaking infection into surrounding areas)
- Abscess infection spreading to other parts of the body, which can cause blood poisoning, heart infections, bone infections, etc.
Most complications of tooth abscesses may be prevented by seeking professional dental treatment as soon as possible.
Tooth Abscess Home Remedies
Because of the risks of complications from a tooth abscess, you should see a dental professional for treatment. However, if you are delayed in seeing a dental professional, there are several home remedies for tooth abscesses that you can try:
- Take 3-4 300 mg garlic capsules a day, along with 1000 mg of Vitamin C three times per day as a natural approach to help your immune system kill the bacteria.
- Place a dry tea bag between your tooth and cheek to reduce pain and swelling.
- A piece of raw potato placed between the tooth and cheek is also said to reduce pain and swelling.
- Dip a wet cotton ball in a mixture of 1 teaspoon of table salt with 1 teaspoon of baking soda, then place between the tooth and cheek.
- Mix as much table salt as will dissolve in a glass of lukewarm water and hold and swish in your mouth for at least five minutes once an hour until swelling and pain diminish.